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Chapter 5 - The Department in the 1980's

The 1981-82 academic year was another important transition period for the department. Kissinger began a three-year term as chairman of the department following the retirement of Henry in the spring of 1981. The department took on added teaching responsibilities with the transfer of the astronomy program from the mathematics department. Finally, in a move to bolster enrollments and build for the future, two young physicists were added to the staff.

 Howard Brooks and Victor DeCarlo are the newest members of the Department of Physics and Astronomy. Brooks is an experimentalist with a Ph.D. in the area of gaseous electronics from the University of Missouri (Rolla); DeCarlo comes via Penn State where he received a Ph.D. in theoretical nuclear physics. Originally, Brooks was hired on a two-year terminal contract as a sabbatical replacement for Henninger in 1981-82 and for Kissinger the following year. However, both appointments became tenure-track when rising enrollments in the department warranted the addition of a fourth permanent staff position.

In a department which prides itself on its teaching, Kissinger has the more impressive credentials, having been twice voted “Best Professor” at DePauw in the last five years. Kissinger has long been involved in summer programs aimed at improving precollege science education in the United States and abroad. During the ‘60s, he participated in a number of NSF Summer Institutes for junior high school science teachers; for the past eight years, he has coordinated the summer Challenge program in Europe for high school seniors attending Department of Defense Dependents School. With his emphasis on “The Fundamentals” and his ability to inspire students, Kissinger is a physics teacher in the finest O.H. Smith tradition. In 1982 he received the first DePauw Alumni Faculty Fellow Award which recognizes a member of the faculty who “contributes significantly to strengthening DePauw’s ties to her Alumni and extends the spirit of the University beyond campus.”

Since 1975, Henninger has played an active role in the continued development of the pre-engineering program at DePauw. He served as director of the program from 1975 to 1984 and continues to teach the Statics and Dynamics courses required of all pre-engineering students. His current interest in Science, Technology, and Society issues has led to a new course, Introduction to Engineering and Technology, which has become a popular elective among pre-engineering and physics students. While on sabbatical in 1981-82, Henninger was Great Lakes Resident Adviser at Oak Ridge, where he conducted seminars and did research leading to a recently published paper on crystallization kinetics. Henninger has been department chairman since 1984 and recently completed a term as president of the Indiana Section of the AAPT.

Brooks alternates with Kissinger in teaching the introductory astronomy course and, when the schedule permits, also offers two additional courses, Astronomy of the Solar System and Stellar Astronomy. Brooks has been responsible for turning the little-used McKim Observatory into a student research facility and a community landmark. Monthly open house gatherings at the Observatory, inaugurated in 1982, have drawn several thousand visitors from the campus, town, and county; guests are treated to views of the moon, planets, and neighboring galaxies through the eyepiece of 9 ½-inch Clark refractor, first used by the university in August 1884. Currently, Brooks and several students are at work on the construction of a radio telescope atop the Science Center.

DeCarlo has been instrumental in reactivating the DePauw chapter of SPS and for reviving interest in the physics honor society; in the past three years, 34 students have been initiated into Sigma Pi Sigma. The physics club sponsors four or five campus colloquia each year, attends meetings of the AAPT, and organizes trips to universities and laboratories. In 1985, the physics club was honored by the National Office of SPS as one of the Outstanding Chapters in the country.

Today, the department is enjoying a renaissance after the lean years of the ‘70s. The number of students enrolled in physics courses has increased by nearly 60% in the last five years, and astronomy courses draw an additional 70-120 students each semester. Most encouraging is the fact that enrollments in upper-level courses have more than doubled in the same period. Ore students major in physics now than at any other time in the university’s history. With quantity there has come quality; many of the current junior and senior majors are DePauw Distinguished Scholars and/or members of Phi Beta Kappa.

Memories of Professor Smith were rekindled when the O.H. Smith Scholarship campaign was announced in the fall of 1984. To date, over 75 physics alumni and friends have contributed nearly $30,000 to the scholarship fund. At the spring 1986 student awards convocation, the first annual O.H. Smith prize of $1,000 was presented to junior David H. Ratliff. The presence of outstanding physics students like Ratliff, coupled with a sense of where we’ve been and where we’re going, give the department staff such good feelings about the future.

Brooks alternates with Kissinger in teaching the introductory astronomy course and, when the schedule permits, also offers two additional courses, Astronomy of the Solar System and Stellar Astronomy. Brooks has been responsible for turning the little-used McKim Observatory into a student research facility and a community landmark. Monthly open house gatherings at the Observatory, inaugurated in 1982, have drawn several thousand visitors from the campus, town, and county; guests are treated to views of the moon, planets, and neighboring galaxies through the eyepiece of 9 ½-inch Clark refractor, first used by the university in August 1884. Currently, Brooks and several students are at work on the construction of a radio telescope atop the Science Center.

DeCarlo has been instrumental in reactivating the DePauw chapter of SPS and for reviving interest in the physics honor society; in the past three years, 34 students have been initiated into Sigma Pi Sigma. The physics club sponsors four or five campus colloquia each year, attends meetings of the AAPT, and organizes trips to universities and laboratories. In 1985, the physics club was honored by the National Office of SPS as one of the Outstanding Chapters in the country.

Today, the department is enjoying a renaissance after the lean years of the ‘70s. The number of students enrolled in physics courses has increased by nearly 60% in the last five years, and astronomy courses draw an additional 70-120 students each semester. Most encouraging is the fact that enrollments in upper-level courses have more than doubled in the same period. Ore students major in physics now than at any other time in the university’s history. With quantity there has come quality; many of the current junior and senior majors are DePauw Distinguished Scholars and/or members of Phi Beta Kappa.

Memories of Professor Smith were rekindled when the O.H. Smith Scholarship campaign was announced in the fall of 1984. To date, over 75 physics alumni and friends have contributed nearly $30,000 to the scholarship fund. At the spring 1986 student awards convocation, the first annual O.H. Smith prize of $1,000 was presented to junior David H. Ratliff. The presence of outstanding physics students like Ratliff, coupled with a sense of where we’ve been and where we’re going, give the department staff such good feelings about the future.

 

 

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